The Rainbow Coalition of Yellowknife held its Pride AGM last week.

Meaghan Richens/NNSL photo
Chelsea Thacker, executive director of the Rainbow Coalition of Yellowknife (RCYK) and Storm Larocque, coordinator for Hay River Pride and former president of NWT Pride and Penelope, Larocque’s dog. February 25, 2019.

Now that NWT Pride has dissolved, the responsibilities of planning the annual event celebrating the LGBTQ2S+ community have been handed over to the Rainbow Coalition.

“We view the responsibilities as being almost like a center point where people can turn to when they’re looking to get Prides happening in their communities,” said Chelsea Thacker, executive director of the coalition.

Those responsibilities will also include planning Yellowknife’s Pride celebrations, said Thacker.

“Previously, NWT Pride was like a celebration of the LGBTQ+ community in the North,” said Storm Larocque, former president of NWT Pride, and co-ordinator for Hay River Pride.

Before NWT Pride there were other groups like Out North that put on smaller celebrations and private events for the community before NWT Pride put on larger events in an official, more established capacity, said Larocque.

“It was one part political statement – the true spirit of Pride across North America – and one part just let’s celebrate and have a space where we can all come together and have a chance to connect and be somewhere safe, really,” she said.

Expressions of interest to be on a planning committee for Yellowknife and Hay River Prides opened on March 1.

But the coalition also plans to help ensure all Pride events in the territory thrive and continue to evolve, said Thacker.

“And try to decentralize Yellowknife as the only place where Prides really are happening,” she said.

The coalition has supported Pride activities outside of Yellowknife in the past and went to Norman Wells ahead of their Pride week to hold workshops in September.

“We’ve found ourselves getting into the habit of travelling to these communities and having the tough conversations with community members, parents, teachers,” said Thacker.

The Rainbow Coalition has been in that role for the past year and they’re excited to take on the planning of Pride this year, she said. As they build capacity in the communities through educators and leaders, adults create space for youth to organize.

“Youth really are the drivers behind every Pride that happens in every community in the North,” said Thacker.

“And it’s just amazing how much they’re dedicated to making sure that the kids and adults in their communities feel accepted and welcomed.”

In recent years Pride has become more popular in communities outside of Yellowknife, said Thacker. In 2014, Mackenzie Mountain School in Norman Wells formed its first Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA), which organized the community’s first-ever Pride Week a year later. The town of Inuvik’s first-ever Pride parade was organized by East Three Secondary School’s GSA last year.

Jake Jellema, left, marches in the Inuvik Pride Parade with a rainbow peace flag with Abe Drennan. NNSL file photo

The coalition plans to build a Pride Network in the NWT to connect all the different Prides and GSAs in communities across the territory. Representatives from different regions will communicate with the smaller groups and offer support like helping them access grants and funding for Pride events.

“The Rainbow Coalition’s biggest project in relation to Pride will be building that Pride network,” said Thacker, adding that they hope to have it semi-established by the fall of 2019. 

“We want to decolonize the way that we do Pride too,” said Thacker.

So we’ll be trying to move away from the way that the south slash West do things and focus more on what Pride means to the North and try to emulate that a little bit.”

Nothing is set in stone for Yellowknife Pride just yet, said Thacker.

“We want the people who are going to be really planning it to have a say,” she said.  “I don’t want to create this planning committee with the plan already mapped out.”

But the intent is to take a nod at previous Prides in the North which were smaller, intimate, supportive, grassroots, and very focused on supporting the LGBTQ2S+ community itself, said Thacker.

And not necessarily concentrating on the concept of Pride or being big and flashy like the south,” she said.

“Because that’s not our community either, so I think that this Pride we’re going to welcome everyone in, we’re going to do some healing, we’re going to plan for bigger things in the future. And we’re just going to find ways as a community that we can educate and support and celebrate our diversity while also giving back to our community to make sure that everyone feels that all the time and not just at Pride.

The Rainbow Coalition is holding a volunteer open house tonight, with a session at 7:45 p.m. for people interested in joining a planning committee for Yellowknife and Hay River Prides.

Meaghan Richens

Meaghan Richens is from Ottawa, Ont., and grew up in Perth. She moved to Yellowknife in May 2018 after completing her bachelor’s degree in journalism at Carleton University. She writes about politics,...

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